Today’s lockdown tracks are chosen by former Toy Doll, current Strangler and always Sunderland fan Baz Warne.
You grew up in Sunderland. What did you get up to as a kid?
I was lucky to have an incredibly happy childhood. I’m the oldest of four lads, and we grew up in East Herrington, which seemed like our own little Utopia. The park at the Board Inn at the bottom of Cairnside was our stomping ground, and I can remember, especially in the six weeks summer holidays, practically living there, and playing football all day, every day.
Everyone and anyone joined in. I vividly remember having a kick around with Ian Porterfield in the park after he’d had his car accident and was recuperating. He’d often come to the park with his kids who were toddlers, with his head strapped up and he’d have a five minute kick about in his big 70’s platform heels and flares, great big wide flares.
And how about music. Was music always playing in the house?
Yes, my mam played the piano, and her mam and dad were from the last days of vaudeville and had a duo. They used to play Kings Theatre quite a lot I’m told, which was in Crowtree Rd, before the Luftwaffe flattened it in 1943. I’ve got Charlie Chaplin’s autograph which they got when they played there with him in 1911.
There were a lot of big band records played when I was a kid, and conductors of the 60’s compilation records by Manuel and Pourcel. My Dad loved Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass and Mam listened to Andy Williams, Charlie Rich and liked a bit of Barry Manilow.
All quite safe for a man who ended up in the punk world.
Yes, and actually a big record for me from that time was Snowflakes are Dancing by Isao Tomita which was an album of music by Debussy, all done on crude primitive synthesisers, really ground breaking. If you look on the back of the sleeve, there’s a picture of him in front of his instrument and it’s all homemade patch bays and jack leads. I managed to find it on CD recently, as my old album, the original one my dad bought in 1974, is well and truly worn out, and the sleeve has all but disintegrated. Those old analogue sounds don’t sound the same on CD, but at least I’ve still got the memories.
So did it get a bit more rock and roll when you bought music yourself?
I guess so, the first record I owned, bought by mam, was Blockbuster by The Sweet, and I can’t listen to it without being back there in my mind. I was 9, it was 1973 and, if the music wasn’t enough, we won the cup. Amazing times.
What music do you listen to now? Do you get to concerts?
The last concert I went to I think was Belinda Carlisle at the Sage in Gateshead last year. I’m really not a fan, but my mate Dave Taggart, who’s a Sunderland boy, plays with her and I went with my wife and some friends to see him. One thing that sticks in my mind about that night is that he was booed when she introduced him. He was great. Played great, sang great, never put a foot wrong but, in Newcastle and he’s from Sunderland so…some people are so stupid.
You must have had it too.
Yes, when The Stranglers play in Newcastle. But then I can’t resist winding them up so… We play a lot of outdoor festivals around the world and I’ve seen some great bands over the years on the same bill as us…Queens of the Stone Age, Futureheads, Motorhead, The Hives, OK GO, The Beach Boys, Sex Pistols, Kings of Leon, Tom Petty, Foo Fighters, ZZ Top…the list is actually almost endless. Mind you, there’s been a lot of crap too, but we won’t go into that!
The one I suppose that’ll always stick with me was The Ramones at Reading festival in 1988. We were down there with our old band The Troubleshooters, playing some scratty pub in London over the bank holiday weekend. We got a one day ticket to see them and Iggy Pop. They were, and still are, the loudest band I’ve ever seen. And not just loud, they were tremendous.
I managed to see The Stray Cats in Manchester last year too, and they were great. Brian Setzer is one of my all time favourite guitar players. I saw Neil Young in Leeds a couple of years ago, and he always blows my mind, beautiful timeless acoustic ballads and love songs one minute, ferociously loud face melting rock the next. I’ve always got time for him, and if there’s one song that’s always been a live favourite of mine, it’s him doing ‘Powderfinger’. I’ve done it for years in bands, and I’m not ashamed to say that hearing him sing it live brought a huge lump to my throat, and I had to tell my wife I had something in my eye!
But you don’t just play the songs of your heroes, you get up and play with them. And, of course, your day job is literally playing No More Heroes!
Yes, I’ve played with a few. Nine Below Zero are a great band and I had a blast with them a few years ago. We played ‘Don’t point your finger at the Guitar Man’, great supercharged R&B, proper R&B, not what people call it nowadays. I got up and did some stuff with The Ruts too, and most recently with Alice Cooper. We played seven shows with him as special guests last year, and we all got up onstage at the end of the last night in Cardiff, what a laugh that was. I’ve had a bash around with loads of people at soundchecks too, just for the hell of it. What can I say? I like to play.
Do you have any rituals before gigs?
Not really, pre gig is usually by myself in a little enclave backstage somewhere warming up on a guitar, and I don’t always do that either. When we tour with The Stranglers it’s always pretty intense. We’ve usually rehearsed for weeks, and we tour for months, so you’re generally as close to the top of your game as you can be. If we’re introducing new songs mid tour, which we do from time to time, I’ll have a spare guitar in the dressing room to noodle on. I’m sure most musicians are the same.
Do you still enjoy performing?
Love it. I have to say that the 5 minutes before any band comes on that you’ve always wanted to see, have to be the most exciting time. Road crew scuttling around making last minute adjustments and checks…then the lights go down, the intro music, if any, comes on, and you see shadowy figures coming on in the dark…this is it…those few seconds can seem like hours before they start, whoever they are…then bam! The lights go up and they steam into the first tune, and it’s like you’ve been carried away to a place where only you, your mates and this band exist. And it’s exactly the same buzz if you’re performing. It’s electric.
What about if you’re not performing, would we see you up dancing?
No I’m not a dancer sadly, I don’t think many musicians are! The last time I danced was at my wedding 18 months ago. I was decidedly polluted, it was very late, and I was surrounded by my wife and very close friends. We couldn’t hack a DJ, I’ve always hated most of them so we’d picked all our own music, spent days honing it all down to a comfy five hours, and it was fantastic. Every single tune was a winner, and I had no problem jumping up and having a jitter. We had a brilliant rockabilly band on, Bessie and the Zincbuckets, and The Stranglers played too. Great day, great night. It was just beautiful.
And if we could let you out of lockdown for one day, where would you go?
Well, I live in Yorkshire now, so I'd most probably get me and the missus suited and booted and go out on the motorbike into the Yorkshire Dales for a spin. There's a world of amazing beauty right outside our door, and I've got a big Triumph that's perfect for dotting around the country roads. It's what I do when things get heavy, or I just need some peace. It's perfect.
Last question, what’s the best walk out music you’ve ever seen?
I still think that Dance of the Knights is up there with my favourite sports walk ons. I know there was a lot of head scratching about it at the time, but I lived pretty close to the Stadium at the time it opened and, if I couldn’t get to the game, I could always hear the music from the house, and it cranked me up to listen to the radio. Guy, Gilley and Gatesy were kings in our house on a Saturday afternoon.
The music is so dramatic, and full of foreboding, raising the tension, and once everyone got used to it, it became a big part of the day, for me at least. And it beats that awful Local Hero thing from just along the road…
Still winding them up I see. Long may it continue. Thanks for chatting.